The Southern District of Texas Finds Federal Jurisdiction is Proper in Montreal Convention Case Where Alleged Damages Were Incurred Due to Delay

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A District Court in Texas recently denied a plaintiff’s motion to remand because the Montreal Convention preempted the claims for damages due to a delayed flight. In Chapa v. Am. Airlines Grp. Inc., plaintiff purchased an airline ticket from American Airlines Group, Inc. (“American”) for a February 5, 2022 flight to Saint Maarten in order to connect to Saint Barthelemy (on a separate airline). American canceled the flight to Saint Maarten on the date of departure, which caused plaintiff to miss the connecting flight to Saint Barthelemy and resulted in his forfeiture of the cost of his accommodations for that night. American provided plaintiff with a later flight to his destination.

Plaintiff filed suit against American and asserted three causes of action, including negligence and breach of contract. Plaintiff initially claimed his damages were incurred due to the cancellation of his flight, but eventually conceded that only a delay in travel occurred. American removed the case to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Plaintiff filed a motion to remand, asserting his Complaint only contained state
law claims.

The District Court denied plaintiff’s motion to remand and found that federal jurisdiction was proper because the Montreal Convention completely preempted plaintiff’s state law claims. The Court stated that in the Fifth Circuit, the Montreal Convention preempts claims that stem from
a delayed international flight. Plaintiff’s failure to mention or rely on the Montreal Convention in his complaint was not enough to avoid its application. Therefore, plaintiffs cannot avoid the application of the Montreal Convention through artful pleading. The District Court noted that the outcome would have been different if plaintiff brought suit following a complete nonperformance, such as a refusal to transport a passenger.

Chapa v. Am. Airlines Grp., Inc., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49372 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 21, 2022).

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